Ansoff matrix, Balanced scorecard, Bass diffusion, Blue ocean, Boston box, Burke Litwin, Business process re-engineering, Chaos model, Clarkson principles, Covey’s seven habits, Deming cycle, Downsizing, Greiner’s growth model, Excellence, Fifth discipline, Force-field analysis, Good to great, Hammerstein-Equord, Just in time, Kaizen, Learning organisation, Management by objectives, Outsourcing, Path-goal theory, Profit pools, Scenario planning, Seven forces, Situational leadership, Six sigma, Total quality, Value-based management, Value streams, Theories X, Y and Z…
When I slow down I go faster
Let’s get this straight not all models are bad. In fact many are based on reasonable ideas and sensible insights. However most are doomed to short and imperfect lives, and to have caused a fair degree of upset and damage along the way. These are the fads. Fads are simple and often disarming ideas that appear to offer more for less, take little time to understand (or master); and which seem to reduce everything to a few easily understood concepts. And being simple beasts they are convenient for managers or consultants to pick up and spread around. However whilst they are often pretty simple ideas, sometimes so simple as to be, well, blindingly obvious, an air of mystery can be restored by talking in acronyms (BCG, BPR, JIT, TQM etc); along with catchy and occasionally Confucian expressions like: ‘when I slow down I go faster’.
There is nothing so unequal as the equal treatment of unequals
Ah, the sound of a single hand clapping… So far then one of the signs of a fad is gross over-simplification. Which is of course at odds with reality, because life, business, management and leadership are complex. Thus anything that claims to reduce this to a straight-forward dichotomy (Type A or Type B), or the sign of a fad par excellence, a 2×2 matrix, just isn’t going to do it. The other thing about fads is that they always over promise, and often claim to generalise to any sort of business or organisation. One size, it would appear, fits all.
And another thought that should be at the fore for any self-respecting fad spotter are that they usually follow business problems. For example JIT, TQM and Kaizen sprang up as a means of trying to compete with the Japanese. Afterall, if you can’t beat them, just-in-time copy their fads… But there’s a bit of a problem here because the solution to a global problem may not work at the micro level. And, more importantly, what appear to be big issues often only serve to create a growing market for advisors! And they of course have a vested interest in promoting the ‘solution’.
Don’t work harder, work smarter
That’s right. It’s quick and painless and you’ll produce more. And I have lots of stories, anecdotes and quotes from successful managers, leaders and assorted gurus that attest to the fantastic efficacy of my new way of doing things. And I do, but what I probably don’t have is any hard evidence. Fads don’t tend to be based on anything empirical. And to make up for the lack of science they are boosted with zingy language, buzzwords, inspirational tales and gripping against-the-odds-but-it-was-alright-in-the-end tales. In consequence beware the old content-style thing! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
To end, my favourite, and possibly the first 2×2 ‘management’ matrix of them all…
This was devised in 1933 by General Hammerstein-Equord, Chief of the German Army High Command. To quote:
“I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent – their place is the General Staff. The next lot are stupid and lazy – they make up 90 per cent of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent – he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.”
Enough said, I think. But it does remind me of that competence-commitment leadership model. Now, which one was that? Just shows you can’t keep a good idea down for long.
Note: All the headings in this post (Don’t work harder etc) are from Leadership and The One Minute Manager by Blanchard, K., Zigarmi, P. & Zigarmi, D., published by HarperCollins Business (1994).
The military quote can be found in The Silences of Hammerstein by Martin Chambers, published by Seagull Books (2009).